Understanding Hummingbird: An Inside Peek At The Google Algorithm

In late 2013, Google changed the way it understands and responds to search queries with its innovative Hummingbird algorithm. How does the system affect you? Here’s the scoop.

When did Hummingbird go live?

Google announced the algorithm in September of 2013, but it’s believed to have started rolling out earlier that summer.

What exactly does it do?

Hummingbird focuses on two things: mobile responsiveness and contextual search. The latter is really the shining star here; it uses a Knowledge Graph to derive the conversational meaning behind any given search. For example, if you typed “where can I buy a latte?” into the box in the past, the engine would return results based primarily on the main words within the query. Now, Google uses the other words to interpret what you actually need, giving you results that are better tailored to your meaning.

Is that why my page is taking a major hit?

It’s possible but unlikely. If you didn’t experience issues at the time of launch, Hummingbird probably isn’t hurting you. It’s more likely that another part of Google’s algorithms down ranked your site during an update or tweak.

How does this alter the search landscape?

It gives users the ability to receive better results without having to wade through keyword-specific pages that aren’t actually aligned with their questions. According to Google, this new processing system doesn’t change the way SEO specialists should approach their content. That said, we’d all do well to spend some time considering the conversational and contextual meaning behind any keyword we use.

How do Panda and Penguin come into play?

They’re entirely separate things. Hummingbird is ultimately an new information-processing engine while Panda and Penguin are algorithmswithin that engine. Though they were rolled out before Hummingbird started, the Panda and Penguin guidelines still apply within the new system.

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